Carmel to buy shopping center near City Center for $15M

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission has an agreement in place to purchase the Monon Square shopping center near City Center for $15 million, a deal that will allow the city to raze the building and start anew.

The agreement is contingent on several conditions and still requires approval from the Carmel City Council. The Carmel Redevelopment Commission will hold a special meeting Thursday to consider the purchase. If approved, the agreement moves on to the city council, which next meets Oct. 15.

The 8.7-acre property at 620 S. Rangeline Road currently has about 75,000 square feet of leasable space. It is owned by the Lawhead family, which manages it through Mohawk Management. The Lawheads also own Soho Cafe and Gallery, a coffee shop and cafe in the Monon Square center. Other tenants in the center include Union Brewing Co. and Jamaican Reggae Grill.

In a written statement, the city said its offer for the property is in line with several other offers the property owners have received over the years. The city did not detail those other offers, directing questions to the Lawheads, who could not be reached for comment.

The city envisions razing the one-story shopping center with a surface parking lot and replacing it with a mixed-use development that would likely include a parking garage similar to those that already exist at Carmel City Center and those under construction in the Midtown development.

This development will be a boost to City Center and other businesses up and down Range Line Road, according to a city.

“Monon Square is a prime piece of real estate,” city redevelopment director Henry Mestetsky said in written comments. “Obtaining this property as one piece is important in order for us to create a quality project that will stand the test of time. This will allow us to work with local businesses and ensure that it does not remain a one-story suburban retail mall for the next 20 years or more.”

The redevelopment commission had already purchased the former Thrifty Care Rental site nearby and has demolished the building in anticipation of acquiring Monon Square, he said.

City spokesperson Dan McFeely told IBJ the city is committed to helping businesses make the transition to the new project, if that’s what they choose. Carmel’s goal for the property is to create a project where local businesses like the ones at Monon Square can thrive, he said.

Mestetsky said most of the businesses are on very short-term leases that can be terminated six months after a new owner purchases the property. So, if a private developer had acquired the center, it could start evicting tenants within a year, he said. Carmel’s process will take several years, giving the businesses more time to make plans, he said.

City Mayor Jim Brainard said the process to purchase Monon Square is similar to the one used to acquire land for City Center. The city bought 88 acres, created a master plan for the area that included mixed use developments, parking garages and The Palladium, and then worked with a private developer (Pedcor Cos.) to create projects that fit within the city’s vision.

“In the same way that we were able to design Carmel’s new downtown with City Center, we need to ensure continued quality of the area through the redevelopment of this piece of land,” Brainard said in written comments.

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